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Prof. Dr. Armando Salvatore, PhD

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Arab and Islamic Studies in the Middle East and globally
  • socio-political trajectories of the Islamic ecumene
  • Islam and Modernity

Secularity, communitas, and immunitas in the Islamic ecumene and within interreligious dynamics

This project is part of a wider research approach to the embeddedness of religion in local and translocal circulation (of goods, peoples and ideas). The general hypothesis is that multiple grammars of secularity are produced within a variety of cultural and religious traditions. These grammars usually facilitate (rather than hinder) circulation since they are not the external other of religion. The modern European, Westphalian configuration of secularity as bound to state sovereignty and organic solidarity is, accordingly, an extreme and quite exceptional outcome of the wider process, within the wider Afro-Eurasian ecumene, from which varieties of the secular originate. The Westphalian regime of political sovereignty and social solidarity demarcates secularity as external to religion. Therefore, Western secularity cannot provide a universally valid benchmark for capturing the socio-political significance of the global variety of secular grammars.

The more specific work hypothesis is that in the historic Afro-Eurasian civilizing process and particularly within the Islamic ecumene, secularities are generated at the unstable intersection between communitas and immunitas, Communitas should not be identified with the conventional understanding of community (that is often collapsed into religion tout court). It should be intended in its original, Latin meaning: as the sharing and circulation of gifts (munus= gift, yet also burden/obligation). Immunitas is the reverse process of the interruption of the circulation of the gift. The mechanism is namely the exemption from returning the gift (munus) as an obligation, the type of obligation that has innervated most religious traditions (and practices) since the Axial Age. Such exemptions are enacted through a variety of formal and informal ways that are sometimes integral to religious discourses and injunctions, but are often built (like within Western models of secularity) as external exceptions to it. Immunitas represents the moment of dispensation from the obligation to return the gift: thus, it amounts to establishing prerogatives, and with them a first kernel of both sovereignty and subjective rights.

The research path to be followed has the potential to embrace case studies of discursive and institutional articulations of the tension between communitas and immunitas from Islamic and interreligious, historic as well as contemporary, fields stretching from the West to Southeast Asia. Research on concepts matching this tension can both expand and deepen the socio-political significance of secularity beyond the boundaries of the West and modernity. It can facilitate the recognition of a variety of grammars of the social which unsettle the mutual demarcations between the “religious” and the “secular” fields.

Relevant Publications

  • Salvatore, Armando.The Sociology of Islam: Knowledge, Power and Civility. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Beyond the Political Mythology of the Westphalian Order? Religion, Communicative Action, and the Transnationalization of the Public Sphere,” in Rethinking the Public Sphere Through Transnationalizing Processes: Europe and Beyond. Edited by Armando Salvatore, Oliver Schmidtke, and Hans-Jörg Trenz, 91–106. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Islam and the Quest for a European Secular Identity: From Sovereignty through Solidarity to Immunity.” Politics, Religion & Ideology, 14/2 (2013): 253–64.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “The Sociology of Islam: Precedents and Perspectives.” Sociology of Islam, 1/1–2 (2013): 7–13.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Transnational Islam in a Post-Westphalian World: Connectedness vs. Sovereignty,” in World Religions and Multiculturalism: A Dialectic Relation. Edited by Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Yitzhak Sternberg, 145–57. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Repositioning ‘Islamdom’: The Culture-Power Syndrome within a Trans-Civilizational Ecumene.” European Journal of Social Theory, 13/1 (2010): 99–115.
  • Salvatore, Armando, Muhammad Khalid Masud, and Martin van Bruinessen, eds. Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “From Civilisations to Multiple Modernities: The Issue of the Public Sphere,” in Multiple Modernities in Muslim Societies: Tangible Elements and Abstract Perspectives. Edited by Modjtaba Sadria,19–26. London: I.B. Tauris, 2009.
  • Salvatore, Armando and Mark LeVine. “Religious Mobilization and the Public Sphere: Reflections on Alternative Genealogies,” in Publics, Politics and Participation: Locating the Public Sphere in the Middle East and North Africa. Edited by Seteney Shami, 65–90. New York: Social Science Research Council, 2009.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Secular Formations and Public Spheres in a Transcultural Perspective.” Journal of Intercultural Studies, 30/3 (2009): 285–301.
  • Salvatore, Armando. The Public Sphere: Liberal Modernity, Catholicism, and Islam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Beyond Orientalism? Max Weber and the Displacements of ‘Essentialism’ in the Study of Islam,” in Defining Islam: A Reader. Edited by Andrew Rippin, 148–72. London: Equinox, 2007.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Authority in Question: Secularity, Republicanism, and ‘Communitarianism’ in the Emerging Euro-Islamic Public Sphere.” Theory, Culture and Society, 24/2 (2007): 135–60.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “The Exit from a Westphalian Framing of Political Space and the Emergence of a Transnational Islamic Public.” Theory, Culture and Society, 24/4 (2007): 41–8.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Islam, Säkularität und die Grenzen der Öffentlichkeit in Europa.” Soziale Welt, 17 (2007): 33–49.
  • Salvatore, Armando, Johánn Páll Árnason, and Georg Stauth, eds. Islam in Process: Historical and Civilizational Perspectives. Bielefeld: Transcript; New Brunswick (New Jersey): Transaction, 2006.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Reflexivity, Praxis, and ‘Spirituality’: Western Islam and Beyond,” in Islam in Process: Historical and Civilizational Perspectives. Edited by Jóhann Páll Árnason, 279–305. Bielefeld: Transcript; New Brunswick (New Jersey): Transaction, 2006.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Public Religion, Ethics of Participation, and Cultural Dialogue: Islam in Europe,” in Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, not Static. Edited by Abdul Aziz Said, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, and Meena Sharify-Funk, 83–100. London, New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Power and Authority within European Secularity: From the Enlightenment Critique of Religion to the Contemporary Presence of Islam.” The Muslim World, 94/4 (2006): 543–61.
  • Salvatore, Armando and Mark LeVine, eds. Religion, Social Practice, and Contested Hegemonies: Reconstructing the Public Sphere in Muslim Majority Societies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Muslims in the New Europe: Between Religious Traditions, Multiple Identities, and the Conflicted Emergence of New Secular Spaces,” in Islam and the New Europe: Continuities, Changes, Confrontations. Edited by Sigrid Nökel, 94–113. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2005.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “The Euro-Islamic Roots of Secularity: A Difficult Equation.” Asian Journal of Social Science, 33/3 (2005): 412–37.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “Secularity and Public Religion in Europe: Historical Roots, Theoretical Debates, and the Case of Public Islam.” HAGAR - International Social Science Review, 6/1 (2005): 7–24.
  • Salvatore, Armando and Dale F. Eickelman, eds. Public Islam and the Common Good. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2004.
  • Salvatore, Armando. “The Implosion of shari‘a within the Emergence of Public Normativity: The Impact on Personal Responsibility and the Impersonality of Law,” in Standing Trial: Laws and the Person in the Modern Middle East. Edited by Baudouin Dupret, 116–39. London, New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004.
  • Salvatore, Armando, ed. Muslim Traditions and Modern Techniques of Power. Hamburg: Lit; New Brunswick (New Jersey): Transaction, 2001.